Social Learning Theory
Description – Theory agrees with the view of classical and operant conditioning, but also says that we can learn by observing others, if their behaviour is punished or rewarded. When you observe someone acting in a certain way, and then decide to imitate them, it is known as vicarious learning. There are 3 different types of vicarious learning: Vicarious Reinforcement, Vicarious Punishment, and Vicarious Extinction. Vicarious reinforcement is when you observe someone being rewarded for such behaviour, so you act in the same way. Vicarious punishment is when you observe someone being punished for a particular behaviour, so you don’t behave that way. Vicarious extinction is when you observe someone no longer being rewarded for certain behaviour, so you stop acting that way. Children observe role models, which can be an older sibling, a parent, or someone in the media. Children observe the role model’s behaviour, and if it produces a favourable consequence, for example a reward, or fame and fortune, etc, the child will more than likely imitate such behaviour. A person would have to pay attention to a type of behaviour, retain the information (remember what you paid attention to), reproduce the information/image, and then be motivated to imitate it. With regards to criminal behaviour, a child could see their parent steal something from a shop and not get caught, and then when they go to school, they decide it’s ok to steal sweets from the shop. A person could also see their favourite actor acting like a gang member, and then feel it’s right to carry a weapon around, thinking it would gain them the same level of respect as the gangster character. People can also imitate others whom are not a role model, if we see the consequences of their actions as being favourable; for example, seeing kids having fun whilst throwing stones at a building could lead someone to join in.
Strengths – There are studies such as Bandura, Ross & Ross’ that back up the theory, showing that children would imitate role models to exhibit aggressive or non-aggressive behaviour towards a bobo doll. This suggests that right from an early age, children are conditioned to a life of crime if their parents are criminals. However, Bandura’s study only measured short term effects, so it may not be applicable to the learning of aggression due to long term exposure. The theory can also explain real life situations/has real life application where criminal behaviour has be caused by imitation of a role model in the media, for example, the killing of Jamie Bulger, where the kids copied scenes from the film ‘Child’s Play’.
Weaknesses – It doesn’t explain why some people see their role models acting aggressively and being rewarded for it, and don’t imitate their behaviour. Likewise, it cannot explain why children of some criminal families don’t turn to crime, suggesting that there are other factors involved. Another weakness of the theory is that Charlton et al. (2000) study showed that there was no link between the introduction of television and raised aggression in children on St Helena, going against the SLT. The study only looked at the short term effects of the introduction on TV, where they may not have seen any aggressive role models, so if they went back several years later, the results may have been totally different.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (Labelling)
Description – People in the media can create a stereotype image of a certain type of person, i.e. hoodie wearer. Personal experience can also cause a wide stereotype image. A label is placed on that type of person with a type of behaviour i.e. hoodie wearers exhibit anti-social behaviour. A person, e.g. a granny, will see this person and be expecting him to behave like the label, i.e. will try and steal her handbag. The granny would clutch hold of her handbag tighter. The hoodie wearer would see this negative behaviour and...
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